King David proclaimed to Hashem, the Compassionate One: “You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as a people unto You forever” (II Samuel 7:24).
In a previous letter of this series, we discussed how the Kohanim of our people, the descendants of Aaron, are to serve as a reminder of the human potential for eternal life. As we also discussed, we, the People of the Torah, are to serve as Kohanim – ministers – to the world, as the Redeeming One told Moshe to convey to our people the following message when we arrived at Mount Sinai: “You shall be to Me a kingdom of Kohanim” (Exodus 19:6).
If the Kohanim of our people are to serve as a reminder of the human potential for eternal life, then our entire people – Kohanim for the world – must also serve as a reminder of this potential for eternal life. It is therefore not surprising that a number of passages within our Sacred Scriptures refer to us as an eternal people who have an eternal covenant with the Eternal One. Some of these passages add that our bond with the Promised Land is also eternal. The earliest example can be found in the following Divine promise to our father, Abraham:
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and between your descendants after you, throughout their generations, as an eternal covenant, to be a God to you and to your descendants after you; and I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns – the whole of the land of Canaan – as an eternal possession, and I shall be a God to them.” (Genesis 17:7.8)
The Divine promises to Abraham were passed on to Isaac (Genesis 26:3,4), and then to Jacob (28:4,13,14). Centuries later, Hashem, the Compassionate One, reconfirms our eternal role in the following promise regarding the messianic age:
“They will dwell on the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, within which your ancestors dwelled; they and their children and their children's children will dwell upon it forever” (Ezekiel 37:25).
“I will seal a covenant of peace with them; it
will be an eternal covenant with them; and I
will emplace them and increase them, and I will
place My Sanctuary among them forever. My
dwelling place will be among them; I will be a
God to them and they will be a people to Me.
Then the nations will know that I am Hashem Who
sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary will be
among them forever.” Ezekiel 37:25-28)
The biblical festivals serve as a reminder of the eternal covenant between the Eternal One and Eternal Israel. In fact, the arrival of a festival suspends personal mourning. For example, there are seven days of mourning for a member of one’s immediate family who passed away; however, with the arrival of one of the Festivals during the seven days, the mourning period comes to an abrupt close! Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that the joy of the Festivals reminds us that we are part of eternal Klal Yisrael – the Holy Community of Israel. We are to be aware that this community “eternally rejuvenates itself”; moreover, through the knowledge that we belong to this eternal community, “every thought of individual mortality vanishes” (Horeb, chap. 43).
We are an immortal people, and the Midrash finds another reference to this idea in the following verse:
“For this is God, our God, forever and ever; He will lead us beyond mortality.” (Psalm 48:15 – Translation of Midrash Tehillim)
Rabbi Hirsch’s translation of the above verse follows the translation of the Midrash, and in his commentary on this verse, he writes, “He will make us immortal among the nations.” He also cites the following alternative translation of the concluding part of the verse: “He leads us on in eternal youth.” Rabbi Hirsch adds that both translations convey the message that we are an eternal people.
In upcoming letters, we hope to discuss the spiritual causes of the serious dangers facing our people and the world, as well as the spiritual solutions. The teachings in this letter concerning eternal Israel are to remind us that these dangers should not cause us to lose hope, for as we discussed in this series, the story of our people represents the human story. May we therefore merit to live in the age when, “He will eliminate death forever” and “erase tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8).
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
A Related Teaching:
Based on above prophecy of Isaiah concerning the death of death, the Midrash states the following teaching of Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi:
There will be no death in the future that is to come – neither for Israel, nor for the nations of the world, as it states that Hashem will erase tears from “all” faces. (Genesis Rabbah 26:2 – the version cited in Sefer Chassidim 368, and in the commentary of Rabbi Joseph Kara on Isaiah 25:8)